Could you have gallstones?
Gallstones are very common but many people do not recognize the symptoms. Your gallbladder's job is to store and concentrate bile that was manufactured by your liver. You need bile in order to digest fat.
The health of your gallbladder is usually a reflection of the health of your liver. People with gallstones usually have a fatty liver, a sluggish liver or compromised liver function. An unhealthy liver cannot produce healthy bile. People with high cholesterol or triglycerides or high blood sugar are also prone to gallbladder problems.
Gallstones may cause the following symptoms:
- Pain in the right upper or central upper abdomen
- Pain may radiate to the back and right shoulder
- Abdominal bloating
- Inability to digest fatty foods
Removal of the gallbladder is an extremely common surgical procedure. Interestingly it doesn't always get rid of the above symptoms. For a significant percentage of patients, having their gallbladder removed does not remove their symptoms. The only effective way of addressing gallbladder disease is to improve liver function.
If the gallbladder or large bile ducts become infected or obstructed with sludge or gallstones, very severe acute symptoms may supervene and these include –
- Severe abdominal pains which may radiate into the back and the right shoulder
- Vomiting and dehydration
- Septicaemia (the infection extends beyond the gall bladder into the blood stream)
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
This is an acute emergency and requires intravenous antibiotics and removal of the gallbladder to prevent a fatal outcome.
Chronic or grumbling gallbladder problems
This condition is far more common than acute gallbladder emergencies.
What is a grumbling gallbladder?
It is a gallbladder that is inflamed and/or sluggish and the causes of this include –
- Weak or uncoordinated contractions of the gallbladder
- Toxic sludge in the gall bladder and/or bile duct
- Bile that sits in the gallbladder and contains excess toxins
- Gall stones
- Overworked gallbladder, which cannot cope with a normal Western diet
What is meant by grumbling is that the symptoms come and go, especially recurring after indulgence in fatty foods or too much alcohol.
What to do if your gallbladder has been removed
Your liver cells are continually making bile, whether you have a gallbladder or not. Once the gallbladder is removed you lose the ability to store and concentrate bile in the gallbladder and bile continually flows through the bile ducts into the small intestine. When you eat a meal you don’t get the extra squirt of bile from the gallbladder into the small intestine and thus your ability to dissolve, digest and absorb dietary fat may be reduced. Some people have problems after losing their gallbladder and this can be helped by various medical treatments.
The most common problems after the gallbladder is removed are-
- Indigestion and/or reflux
- Bloating after meals
- Diarrhea from unabsorbed fats remaining in the gut
- Itching skin and a sallow complexion
Luckily, in the majority of cases the gallbladder does not need removal if problems with its function are addressed promptly. What you eat and drink day after day has the biggest effect on your gallbladder, rather than a gallbladder flush or detox you may perform sporadically.
Dietary strategies for improving gallbladder health
IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO
- Do raw juicing using cabbage, carrot, ginger root, mint and apple etc. (see juice techniques and recipes in Raw Juice Can Save Your Life book by Dr Cabot)
- Include fresh green leafy herbs in your salads and raw juices – the best liver cleansing herbs are mint, parsley, garlic, chives, shallots, basil, coriander and small amounts of thyme and oregano
- Increase the amount of raw vegetables in your diet
- Taking digestive enzymes at the beginning of your meals may reduce symptoms
- Take a good liver tonic twice daily; ensure it contains Saint Mary’s Thistle, B group vitamins, vitamin C, and sulphur bearing amino acids such as glycine and taurine
- Supplement with the amino acids taurine and glutamine and the mineral selenium, which can help the bile quality and reduce inflammation in the liver and bile ducts
- Take liquid fish oil – one teaspoon twice daily just before food. Keep the oil in the fridge. Consume other healthy fats such as cold pressed flaxseed oil, macadamia nut oil and olive oil.
- Sip one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar mixed in a small glass of water during your meals
- Drink plenty of pure water
- Drink dandelion tea and coffee
- Be careful not to overindulge on dairy products – the best ones are natural cheeses and plain yoghurt
- Hot spices are good for the liver and bile ducts and good choices are wasabi, horseradish sauce, mustard, garlic, curry, turmeric and chilli. If you have a sensitive stomach or gastritis only use small amounts of these spices or avoid them.
THINGS TO AVOID
- Deep fried foods, margarine, cream and icecream
- Packaged snack foods and take away foods – such as chips, pretzels, cookies, donuts, hot dogs and pizza etc
- Excess sugar – use natural alternatives to sugar such as xylitol or stevia rather than aspartame based products
- Excess alcohol
- Cheap processed vegetable oil
- Sugary soft drinks and diet sodas
Herbal remedies for the gallbladder
The best herbs for the gallbladder are those that promote bile secretion by the liver and increase contractions of the gallbladder. This has a cleansing effect on the gallbladder and discourages the formation of sludge and stones inside the gallbladder. The most appropriate herbs to use are St Mary's thistle, dandelion root and globe artichoke. They are combined, along with other beneficial nutrients in Livatone liver tonic.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.